I decided to review Chasing Mavericks for the simple fact that its star (Gerard Butler) was in another recently released video in Playing For Keeps that just left me in a bad mood afterwards. I think the guy seems decent and wanted to give him another chance. So why not see him on the West Coast of California playing a Scottish Mr. Miyagi, right?
Kario Salem (The Score) wrote the screenplay that Michael Apted (56 Up) and Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) co-directed. The film is based on the life of Jay Moriarity, a teenager who became famous for his challenging of the vaunted big wave surfing spot Mavericks in Half Moon Bay, California. Moriarity died from a diving accident just before his 23rd birthday, but the film focuses on the relationship between he and his mentor Frosty Hesson (Butler) when Jay (played in this film by Jonny Weston from John Dies at The End lore) was 16 and making the transition to big wave surfing. Jay learns under Frosty while helping keep his Mom (Elisabeth Shue, Piranha) out of as much trouble as he can, while dealing with bullies and falling in love with Kim (Leven Rambin, The Hunger Games).
Perhaps the biggest problem with Chasing Mavericks is that what I just described covers the movie to a T, and that the story does little to make any of it compelling or worthwhile to watch. Considering that the obligatory conflicts that the film introduces (particularly Jay against the waves and some locally forgettable beach bums, or Frosty trying to push Jay to his limits) are wholly predictable and nondescript, this does not help matters. Also not helping matters? I thought the story's pacing was dreadful. To their credit, they throw Jay and in some scenes Frosty out onto the waves to keep the viewer interested and hanging around to watch for another 20-25 minutes. But with plot devices that are hardly interesting the film feels like a manipulation of sorts by the time things get to the climax (a tournament at Mavericks) this feels like more of a marathon than about a boy looking to find his calling.
Oddly enough, I did not find much fault in the performance of Butler, or of Weston. They seem to handle their respective characters well, and while Weston's character development is more by the numbers and self-explanatory, Butler's has a little more subtlety to it. Whether it is his relationship with his wife or perhaps exorcising any demons Frosty may have discovered about himself while tutoring Jay. As one who has seen more Gerard Butler starring vehicles than I have perhaps cared to, I am confident in this assertion, even if the story does not give him enough to do.
In that regard, Gerard Butler certainly makes Chasing Mavericks more compelling to watch than Playing For Keeps, but there are big problems with both movies, despite the separate stories both are trying to tell. However, if it is a choice between being a "bad" movie and a "forgettable" one, Chasing Mavericks is the latter, and that fate is worse than being remembered for being faulty.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Using the AVC codec, Fox trots Chasing Mavericks out in a 1.85:1 widescreen high-definition presentation, and the results are predictably excellent. Image detail is my personal big takeaway from watching the Blu-ray, whether it is in the sea foam or glassy appearance of the waves or the facial hair and pores of the actors. Colors are reproduced nicely, and in night shots, the darkness looks deep and presents a quality contrast to other images within the picture. The film sure is pretty looking, even if there is not much upstairs.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless surround track might be the star of the disc, and it is little reason to wonder why. The waves of Mavericks sound clear and thunderous as they crest and come crashing down into the ocean, with the subwoofer providing additional low-end punch as warrants. On the quieter side, dialogue sounds good, and the film's '90s hard/alt rock soundtrack is clear and stretches over the home theater nicely, and almost as impressively as the waves. The film may not be all that fun to experience, but it sounds phenomenal.
Apted, along with producers Brandon Hooper and Jim Meenaghan combine forces for a commentary that is entertaining to listen to. The track is mainly driven by Hooper, though Apted talks about film that he shot and the film Hanson did. The trio also talks about the casting of certain actors and recalls the production and its many locations, and comparing the real life events and people to what was done in the film. They also talk about how the surfing scenes were shot and some surfing basics for the layman. All in all it is a good track. Five deleted scenes (5:45) expand on Mavericks' importance from a surfer's point of view. Four featurettes follow, starting with "Surf City" (10:30), which looks at the location and people around Half Moon Bay and includes interviews with the real-life people and the cast that portrays them, as they talk about the past and the current for Mavericks. "Shooting Waves" (10:28) is fairly self-explanatory as the production shows the viewer what they did to shoot the surf, and how it may have been done. "Live Like Jay" (10:50) includes interviews with some friends of his and some of the cast, and Jay's widow and the real-life Frosty show up and talk about the man. "Surfer Zen" (10:09) includes thoughts on surfing from surfers, and how the cast used it in their acting. There is also a redeemable code for a copy of the film for the Ultraviolet streaming service, in case you need to avail yourself.
From a family film perspective, Chasing Mavericks is a decent view, though watching it gives you the distinct impression that the cast and crew are simply checking off the boxes as the film gets longer and longer. The end result is a film that is long, slow and without any real drama. Technically the disc looks and sounds great and has some decent bonus materials. It is worth a rental, but there is little else that will influence a decision to buy.